Saturday, November 9, 2019

Heartache At Batticaloa

On Easter Sunday, April 17, 2019, Sri Lanka was rocked by terrorist attacks on churches and hotels in the capital city of Colombo and in the eastern coastal city of Batticaloa.  Sadly, 253 lives were lost and many hospitalized due to these attacks perpetrated by a faction of ISIS.

One of the churches that was bombed was Zion Church in Batticaloa.  With our local ministry partners, Pat and I had the privilege to see the church grounds, meet with the Pastor for over 2 hours and pray with him.  Following is an account of what happened that tragic day at Zion Church.

The terrorist had originally planned to attack St Mary's Catholic Church a few blocks away, but when he arrived mass was over, so he went down the street to Zion Church.  Twenty-nine people died, among them a married couple who were the church’s worship leaders, the assistant pastor, several Sunday school teachers and 17 children.

Packed into a large backpack, the blast from this powerful bomb was heard over 3.5 miles away!. It was made up of bottles packed with a corrosive chemical powder and filled with thousands of tiny ball bearings, capped with  C4 explosive. The bombing was tragic and devastating to the families of those killed or injured. Some families lost multiple loved ones. Several people have permanent injuries and are believing for the Lord to heal them. Some are still recovering from burns, others are awaiting plastic surgeries.

The enemy planned for more to die - but God!!!  These may sound like coincidences, but we believe they were divine intervention in an evil plot.

  • Although invited into the church by three different people, the bomber did not go into the sanctuary. He continually asked for the pastor who was in England at that time. The Assistant Pastor became suspicious and was escorting the bomber off the grounds when the terrorist set off the bomb. 
  • The Assistant Pastor usually parks his van off site, but that day he decided to park it on site at a location that shielded the staircase where the children were sitting eating their snacks.
  • The house church caught fire. Pastor had a large fish tank in the courtyard, which ruptured and soaked the ground preventing the fire from spreading further. 

Six months after this tragic blast, the church is being rebuilt by the government and people continue to cope with the results of this grim reminder that we “do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12).  The Pastor and congregation have chosen to forgive their attackers, and reject bitterness that could destroy hearts and lives as surely as the bomb did. They declare that they will continue to fulfill the call and the mission that God has given them to spread the message of Jesus’ love.

Please continue to pray for Zion Church and all those around the world who are suffering persecution because of their faith in Jesus.

Blessings, Gary

Entrance to the Church Courtyard

Shrapnel bit into concrete, iron and flesh

Rebuilding the church
- after clearing away the destruction.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

New Smile of Hope Children's Center - Cambodia

Guest Blogger - John Yoder - reports directly from Cambodia.

John and his wife Sotey, along with their children Jayme and Anna, live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, ministering to the poorest of the poor through Reaching Kids International - Cambodia.  Thanks to your prayers, support and gifts - Greater Works Unlimited is able to help change lives physically and spiritually.  Here's John's report:
GREAT TIME OF OUTREACH TODAY with friends and longtime supporters of Reaching Kids International - Cambodia: Gary & Pat Richards at the RKI-Cambodia sponsored New Smile of Hope Children's Center, in Takeo Province.
Generous packets of noodles and fish (canned sardines) were given to nearly 150 families from the village, and loaves of bread distributed to the kids and many of their parents who attended.

Gary and I were blessed to see how well-run this Children's Center is.  The Pastor and his family live on the property with the children and flocks of ducks, geese and chickens. After the outreach program the villagers returned to their homes and we enjoyed lunch with the children and workers at the center.  The children were served first - a simple meal of rice and duck stew from the flocks they raise.  Even though they were hungry, all the kids waited to give thanks for their meal before digging in.  Our lunch included a few more dishes, all deliciously prepared by the workers and older girls who are learning the useful skill of large scale food preparation.

Some of the girls took me on a tour to see their shared dorm rooms: typical girl's rooms with colorful sheets on the bunk beds, photos of models and drawings of flowers covering the walls; books and clothes piled up in their limited space.

As the children get older, the center needs more space and are praying for the ability to build a second level of rooms soon.

Join us in agreeing with their prayers and the heart of Father God to see each of these thirty-four children and young people provided for physically and spiritually so that they will fully walk into their God-given destiny and purpose.

The Journey Continues ~ Pat

Airport Send-off - until next time!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Where in the World - Myanmar & Sri Lanka

The calendar pages are turning, and we are already halfway through our mission trip.  What a great adventure it has been so far.

Myanmar had a few unexpected challenges and changes in our plans - yet fruitful times of fellowship and ministry as we embraced God's plans in spite of our personal disappointment.  We shared some of the adventure in this report: 48 Hours in a Myanmar Village.

A short trip to the city of Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand turned into one of the most fun and heartwarming trips.  Check out the detailed report on our blog "The Road to Chiang Rai".

Sri Lanka is one of our favorite countries - with a strong eye clinic work, and fruitful ministry partnerships.  We're working on a couple reports of our time there.

Take a moment and watch our most recent video update.  We have so much we want to share, the first version of this video was five minutes long!  Somehow we edited it down to two minutes.

Enjoy this brief update on our travels.
Video not showing up? Click this Link

The journey continues - watch for reports on both Sri Lanka and Cambodia.  Then we're off to India.

May your Journey with God bring you closer to His heart.  ~ Pat

Bus Ride

Myanmar Village Church

Waiting Patiently - Sri Lanka Eye Clinic

Monday, October 28, 2019

My Cambodian Birthday

The morning of my birthday finds me in Phnom Penh, Cambodia,  on a hotel balcony overlooking a market street.  The sun is up, but our little balcony is shaded by the surrounding buildings.  Which is great because it's already 79 degrees Fahrenheit (87% humidity)  with a forecast of 92 degrees and 90% humidity by noon.

The street is waking up with vendors at Phsar Kandal Market, early morning shoppers, tourists and residents of the apartments across the street.  The murmur of daily life surrounds me, and I realize that each person starting their day has a story.  Each one is a life that Jesus died for.  My heart is overwhelmed.  My human understanding cannot comprehend the depth of His love.

That I am here, doing what I love, amazes me.  Gratitude overwhelms my heart for this - the best birthday gift ever.

The journey continues ~ Pat


Friday, October 18, 2019

The Road to Chiang Rai ---

The road to Chiang Rai - is under construction!

We booked our seats for the three-hour ride from Chiang Mai,Thailand to Chiang Rai, Thailand.  The VIP Green Bus was clean with comfy seats.  Due to the winding mountain road, using the small bathroom at the back of the bus was an adventure reserved for the truly desperate.  

Heavy rain and detours slowed us down even though construction crews were shut down for Thailand's Memorial Day in honor of the Passing of His Majesty the Late King.


When we finally arrived safely at Chiang Rai bus terminal #1, we were met by Beau (บิว) (pronounced as in Beau-ti-ful), her husband Joseph and their 1 1/2-year-old daughter Zo-E! (emphasis on the long 'E'). Our good friend Mike Kerychuk had introduced us through Facebook and suggested we meet them during our time in Thailand. 

What an amazing 48 hours we spent with them. Both Beau and Joseph are Thai citizens of the Akha tribe.  Despite the language barrier our hearts were knit together as they shared their heart for the Akha people who live in the mountainous regions of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Northeast India and the Yunnan province of China.

They reach out to the Akha people in several ways – pastoring a village church, outreaches to remote villages and children’s homes; running a dormitory for 12 students so they can attend the government school that is far from their village home.  Students are provided with room and board, tutoring, music lessons and Bible classes.

Our first stop was the Golden Triangle Park, the point in northern Thailand where the Ruak and Mekong rivers converge and you can look across into Laos and Myanmar.  The governments of the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Burma and Laos) continue to work to replace opium fields with coffee farms. 

As a bonus adventure, they took us to Beau's home village of Doi Chang, a popular tourist destination famous for coffee.  Beau's extended family are coffee growers.  We toured Doi Chang Coffee Farm, sampled various roasts, and stayed at the adjoining guest rooms while enjoying the cool mountain air and gorgeous scenery.  


Beau’s family warmly welcomed us into their home and served us a traditional Akha meal of locally grown organic vegetables, fried fish, rice, a tomato dipping sauce much like fresh salsa, sticky rice with peanuts, fresh fruit (longan and rambutan) and tea.  It was delicious and abundant. 


What a joy it was to meet these dedicated servants of Jesus and partner with them as they bring His light and love to their people.   “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:5 NIV.

The Journey Continues ~ Pat

Friday, October 11, 2019

Sweet Hour of Prayer - Myanmar

“… if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”   2 Chronicles‬ ‭7:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬

In a nation where the population is overwhelmingly Buddhist; the city of Kalaymyo, Myanmar is almost evenly Christian and Buddhist. 

The concept of a prayer garden transfers easily from one religion to another as they co-existing in this friendly bustling city.

These beautiful individual chapels are available at no charge, providing Christian worshipers with solitude for prayer in a culture where personal space is non-existent. 

A morning spent in prayer and fellowship bonded our hearts in a deeper way, providing a tangible illustration that we are “many parts, yet one body”.

Part of our heart will always remain in Myanmar: "until next time".

Prayerful worship in any language: Sweet Hour of Prayer


The Journey Continues ~ Pat

(NOTE: Since we are travelling, with sketchy Internet, blogs are not always posted in real time or in chronological order.)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Myanmar - Until Next Time

[DISCLAIMER: Due to our travel schedule, and sketchy internet service, blogs are not necessarily posted in chronological order.]

Fighting back a myriad of emotions, I gaze out the window as our plane backs away from the gate at Myanmar's Yangon International Airport.

Our time here has been rich and full. Brimming with new experiences,  new places and faces,  some disappointments and changed plans. Prayer, fellowship, good food and sharing God's Word. Mostly perfect weather with less rain than predicted at the end of rainy season. Scenic vistas that defy description.  New friends transformed into family.

The frequent query: "When will you return to us?" echoes in hearts.  Our sincere  answer: "When the Lord wills".

This is our current assignment our current norm.  Warm hellos, rich fellowship. Subdued yet hopeful departures with the refrain "Until next time" ringing in our ears, echoing in our hearts.

Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport  welcomes us and serves as a spring board to our next destination: Sri Lanka.

The Journey Continues ~ Pat